Furious farmers today threatened to halt the slaughter of up to a million sheep, pigs and goats.

The Government has ordered the mass cull of healthy animals within a two-mile radius of infected farms in Cumbria and south-west Scotland.

It is taking the desperate step in a bid to wipe out foot-and-mouth disease.

But farmers in Cumbria have threatened to barricade themselves in their farms rather than allow the slaughter of healthy livestock.

Andrew Spence, regional co-ordinator for Farmers For Action in the North-East, warned the mass cull would cause a "rural revolt".

Mr Spence, who also helped lead last autumn's fuel protests, said: "Farmers up here will not tolerate anyone coming in and slaughtering animals that are not infected.

"If we have got to blockade ourselves into our farms, then we will."

As the number of foot-and-mouth cases rose to 259 today, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown urged farmers to co-operate with Government vets.

Mr Brown said: "The war we should be fighting is against the virus. To be fighting each other is a ridiculous thing to do."

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said he recognised the need for the "silence of the lambs" crackdown.

But he said farmers were facing the "torture" of seeing their herds wiped out and not knowing where the disease would strike next.

Mr Gill said he would be asking the Government for a compensation package running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Read more about the crisis, have your say and tell others of cancelled events here.

Updated: 14.14 Friday, March 16